Fest Practices, Part 7
...continued from Part 6: We’re Live! Now What?!
PLAY NICE IN THE SANDBOX
It’s easy to be selfish and inconsiderate. If you read Part 6 of this series (link above), you might still be sore from us ripping off the Band-Aid stressing the importance of what it means to be self-aware. Beyond making sure your beer is accounted for and your staff is trained to be effective faces of your brand, making smart use of your time while pouring alongside other industry professionals is the perfect Petri dish from where to cultivate a network you can trust. Their “been there, done that” experience is priceless. So, how do you get them on your team—or, better yet—them to invite you onto theirs?
GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
There will be plenty of time to mingle, so before you leave your staff hanging (which you’ll never do, correct?), ensure that everything about your own booth is primed, ready to activate first.
Think about your event space like your home… and it’s on the market, and its open house is today. Would someone offer you above-asking price for what’s on display?
In order for you to answer this fairly, wait until your staff is busy, then walk out and observe your booth in full swing from where the attendees (i.e., potential homebuyers) are congregated. Stay there, be a fly on the wall, and listen for attendee feedback. If they’re whispering or muttering under their breath, it’s time to hire a realtor to help you stage your house.
Simultaneously, recruit someone who can’t lie to you, comp ‘em a beer, and ask them to observe and give feedback on the following.
- Is your booth visually appealing?
- Can someone who’s never heard of you tell it’s your brewery without walking up and getting a beer?
- Can you read your tap list from 10 people back?
- Is there a logical flow to ordering and being served?
- Is your counter space clean, dry, organized, and free from trash and random empties?
- Is your “back bar” as well? It shouldn’t look like a graveyard where empty kegs go to die.
- Do you have merch for sale? If so, how much is it? What sizes are available?
- Is your team working as a cohesive unit?
- Are they smiling, making eye contact, and being hospitable to guests?
- Is there anything that would inspire you to visit this brewery after the event, or, conversely, turn you off to ever giving them another chance?
Remember going to that one friend’s house with the funky bunk bed, who always had the coolest toys, and their parents made you something for lunch that you’d never heard of before? You knew you were having a special experience because it felt like home should, you had fun, knew you were taken care of, and you still remember it all these years later. Seek out those kids today, and go visit their booths. But, if that friend was actually you and you grew up setting the example for others, keep inviting them over.
You’ve drank at dozens, hopefully hundreds, of breweries. You’ve gone out to eat over 1,000 times. In all those visits, what have you learned, and why might you still be missing the mark? In my personal experience, having visited the same vast volume of taprooms and dining rooms as you, it is rare—certainly far less than one would hope—that an establishment nails it and gets everything right from entry to exit. As a patron who chooses to support you with my money, one thing I will never apologize for as a guest in your establishment is expecting a stellar, personal, and memorable experience. As a business owner, you should want the same thing. So what gives?
Be a zombie, and pick everyone’s brain. Ask every seemingly dumb question until you get to the smart answers. Study everything, and put only the best stuff into practice. If you try it and it flops, recalibrate, and try again. If it fails miserably, scrap it, and improve. Failure to do so will result in you being average along with the rest of the majority. And, as we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, being average isn’t doing your brand any favors.
SHARE YOUR TOYS
Don’t be that stingy little brat who only cares about himself. We know this industry prides itself on embracing camaraderie. Help that tide continue to rise. If you’re in a position to help, offer it—because there will come a time when you need someone to throw you a life jacket, but if all you’ve ever given others is the cold shoulder you better be good at treading water.
Here are a few simple ideas that attract good karma, new best friends, and help when you’re drowning.
- Bring thank-you beers for the event host, organizing guild, etc. for their work and energy making the occasion happen.
- Check in with the event host when you arrive. Yes, even if you don’t have to. Find them, look them in the eyes, thank them for having you, and then hand ‘em the beer.
- Walk a tray full of samples of what you’re pouring today to new or other breweries you haven’t met yet as a way to introduce yourself.
- Patronize those same breweries. Throw ‘em a token, a ticket, a dollar—whatever—and try what they’re serving.
- Are any of your personal favorite breweries also present? Tell all of your fans to go check them out, too. That word travels extra fast. A public recommendation is the biggest compliment you could give someone.
- Pitch the idea of a collaboration (or a series collaboration, or a joint event) to your favorite breweries. Come to the table with an idea and let them feed off of it. And, at next year’s fest, bring that beer and both of you promote it on behalf of the other.
Would the event host and your fellow industry colleagues have been proud to have you participate and slingin’ beers next to them? Show up with the goal to make sure their answer is an easy, “Yes.”
Why wouldn’t you want to be that friend who’s known for always showing up? Not just being there, but coming prepared, willing to help those in a pinch, and humble and gracious when someone extends a hand to pull you up when you need it, too.